Today is the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, also known as the Presentation of Christ, in the Temple. On this day, forty days after His birth, Christ was brought to the Temple by His parents, fulfilling the Law for all firstborn males.
Yesterday, we spent much time preparing for the Feast. And in our preparations, I could only smile at the mixed up medley of smoothness and chaos.
Hilary and I began the day by driving to a little artisan bakery to pick out just the right five loaves for the Litya at Vespers. Then, we bought a vibrant bouquet of tulips to set before the icon of the Theotokos. We traveled to multiple stores to buy supplies to make candles to be blessed on the Feast. We labored to make those candles. We went to church and prayed at Vespers. We immersed ourselves in the Feast for virtually the entire day. Then, as we prepared our candles to bring to Liturgy in the morning, we talked about the names of the Great Feasts. Hilary struggled to place the significance of each one, so I helped her remember and categorize them. When we got to the Meeting of the Lord, I said:
“This one is easy, right? This one we know a lot about. What happened on this Feast?”
“Uh…uh…well, somebody met the Lord, and then…uh…uh…somedbody ascended???
I had to laugh. All that preparation, and Hilary seemingly still had no clue what we were doing. But you know, I don’t really think that’s true. Teaching our kids about the Faith is all about layers. It doesn’t happen in one day or one year. It’s a lifetime of layer upon layer of grace. What we’re laying now as a family is the foundation. Every prayer, every feast, every merciful moment will build on that foundation. It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. This isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.
On the Meeting of the Lord, candles are traditionally blessed. In the prayers at the blessing, we are reminded that it is Christ who enlightens our darkness. The burning fire of His glory consumes us with His pure brightness. Like candles, we glow and flicker for the love of God.
This year, we made some homemade candles to have blessed. I wanted them to be simple and of Hilary’s design. We decided to make twelve small candles, one for each of the Great Feasts.
First, we melted paraffin and filled miniature terracotta pots with the wax.
Hilary wrote the names of the Feasts on strips of paper, and we glued them to the tops of the pots. She chose red beads to glue to the pots for the Feasts of Christ, and blue beads for the Feasts of the Theotokos. We painted a wooden tray to hold the candles and finish off the project.
The second project started off as a hit, because we bought little cartons of chocolate milk to use as molds. This time, we added a crayon to the wax as it melted for color. As we filled up the carton mold, we alternated layers of wax with layers of crushed ice. When it cooled, it was supposed to look like this. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.
The idea is to end up with a candle peppered with textured holes and interesting crevices. Our candles had about three holes apiece, so it basically just looked like we either dropped the candle or just don’t know how to pour.
But that is what Feast Day crafts are all about. I love doing crafts with my children. I enjoy researching and imagining and buying supplies to create lovely, functional, classy pieces of art. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging kids to strive for beauty. Sometimes, the beauty comes not from the success, but rather the failure, the attempt, or the totally unexpected randomness of working with children. So, one of our projects was a flop. So, my daughter chose grey as the oh-so-fetching color for the flowers on the candle tray. So, she whined that she was bored and wanted to quit and then got flaming mad that I finished one of the things without her. So, she can’t, at age six, spout out the names and origins of every feast and every saint in the Church calendar. So what?
Celebrating feasts is not always smooth. It doesn’t always go as planned. But embracing the mishaps and turning them over to God as part of the celebration is one of the greatest blessings of all.
Today, we sang of the elder Simeon, who was overcome by the emotion of holding the burning coal of God’s fire in his arms. Who lived and waited and watched for the Savior, and in that moment, found Him. Who embraced who? Who met who that day? A babe forty days old on his Mother’s side and eternal on His Father’s side, was presented to the world for us and our salvation. Truly, truly Lord, you have brought us from darkness to Light.
What a lovely celebration we had today. A special Feast. We shared the experience of creating something to be blessed. Throughout the year, we’ll return to these candles as we burn one on each of the twelve Great Feasts. We’ll remember the day and the laughs and the love that filled our hearts as we celebrated. We’ll give glory to God for meeting us in these moments, and we’ll present ourselves to Him as offerings. Though we may be lopsided or off-color or mismatched, we offer it all to God.
Praying with and for my family. Lighting a candle in the darkness. Embracing the gift of love. A joyous, joyous Feast.